Which Credit Card Should You Use At Hotels?

Filed Under: Chase, Citi
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I’m often asked by readers which credit card they should be using to maximize points for a given hotel stay, or if there’s an overall best hotel credit card.

Typically recommending which credit card is best for a particular bonus category (like dining, grocery stores, etc.) is easy.

The added wrinkle with making this recommendation for stays at chain hotels is that you don’t just have to consider which credit cards generally offer the best bonus categories for travel, but you also have to consider whether the hotel brand you’re staying at has a co-branded credit card that offers bonus points for stays at that specific brand.

In this post, I wanted to look at the most rewarding credit cards for hotel spending in general (regardless of the brand you’re staying at), and then compare that to the bonuses offered by specific co-branded credit cards.

What are the most rewarding credit cards for hotel spend?

For this section, I’m excluding co-branded hotel credit cards. That’s because I’m looking at the cards that offer the best bonuses on hotel spending in general, rather than the best bonuses for a particular brand of hotel.

So, which major credit cards offer bonuses for hotel spend?

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve® 

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $450

Learn more about this card here.

2. Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95
Things to be aware of: This is a business card, and the 3x points is limited to the first $150,000 in combined purchases in bonus categories each account anniversary year

Learn more about this card here.

3. Citi Premier℠ Card

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Learn more about this card here.

4. Citi Prestige® Card

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $450

Learn more about this card here.

5. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Reward for hotel spending: 3.4% (2x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95

Learn more about this card here.


The Sapphire Reserve offers triple points on hotel spending

How do co-branded hotel cards compare?

As you can see above, there are four cards with the same return (by my valuation). All offer 3x transferable points, and all are points that I value at 1.7 cents each.

That means you’re looking at a return of ~5.1% regardless of which card you use. Do you get a better or worse return when using a co-branded hotel credit card?

To be comprehensive, let’s look at the co-branded credit cards issued by Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, Radisson Rewards, and World of Hyatt. First let me share how much I value a point in each of these currencies:

  • Hilton Honors — 0.5 cents each
  • IHG Rewards Club — 0.5 cents each
  • Marriott Bonvoy — 0.7 cents each
  • Radisson Rewards — 0.3 cents each
  • World of Hyatt — 1.5 cents each

To keep things fairly simple, let’s look at the co-branded credit card from each of the hotel groups that offers the highest return on hotel spending:

Hilton Honors

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers 14x points on Hilton spending, which I value at a return of 7%. This is excellent, and beats the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards.

IHG Rewards Club

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card offers 10x points on IHG hotel spending, which I value at a return of 5%. This isn’t quite as good as the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards.

Marriott Bonvoy

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase offers 6x points on Marriott hotel spending, which I value at a return of 4.2%. This isn’t as good as the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards.

Radisson Rewards

The Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card offers 10x points on Radisson spending, which I value at a return of 3%. This isn’t as good as the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards.

World of Hyatt

The World of Hyatt Credit Card offers 4x points on Hyatt hotel spending, which I value at a return of 6.0%. This is excellent, and beats the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards.


I use the World of Hyatt Card for my Hyatt hotel spending

Crunching the numbers

Everyone will value points differently, and those with different points valuations may also come up with different conclusions.

Personally, I think the Chase Sapphire Reserve®Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit CardCiti Premier℠ Card, and Citi Prestige® Card, offer the best general return on hotel spending, at 5.1%.

What’s largely surprising is that co-branded hotel credit cards don’t offer a better return for stays at their “own” hotels than these cards do for travel purchases.

Based on my valuation of hotel points:


Earn 14x points on Hilton stays with the Aspire Card

Other considerations with hotel spending

I should mention that there are other potential considerations when deciding which hotel credit card to use:

Bottom line

In many cases, you’re actually not best off using a co-branded hotel card for your hotel spending, counterintuitive as it might be. Hilton and Hyatt have especially good co-branded hotel credit cards, where it can be worth spending money on their cards at hotels.

Otherwise, you’re generally best off using a transferable points card for your hotel spending.

What’s your go-to card for hotel spend? Do you find it more worthwhile to use the hotel’s co-brand card, or do you use a card earning transferable points?


Non-Affiliate Product Disclaimer: The information for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card has been collected independently by One Mile at a Time. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Comments
  1. Lucky,

    One thing that I think you and other bloggers miss out on is the value of using cobrand cards to “top off” points earned by regular activity.

    For example, spending on the Marriott cards doesn’t seem all that compelling based on your math. However, let’s say you are a business traveler that “naturally” earns 70,000 Marriott points a year through paid stays and you want to redeem points at a particular hotel that costs 80,000 a night (or two nights at a 40,000 hotel). Let’s say you also have to pay for $2,000 of Marriott travel on your own dime (many business travelers are not paying for flights directly). In that case, I would rather spend put that $2,000 of spend on a Marriott card and earn 12,000 Marriott points – that gets me to that 80,000 redemption instead of spending $2,000 on the Sapphire Reserve (which only earns 6,000 Marriott points due to Chase’s 1:1 transfer ratio). There are plenty of other non-hotel opportunities to earn 3x UR points with a Reserve, but there may be fewer opportunities to earn 6x Marriott points.

    Note this math doesn’t work as well with airlines given all airline cards earn at most 2x miles per dollar, which is below the Sapphire and Amex Cards.

  2. At check out, always apply only the minimum spend to activate your Amex offer, then put the balance on a card that earns multiples.

  3. @Anthony, in short, when you are short of Marriott points. That is all you need to say. With all the sign up bonus + double point promotion plus lack of good redemption opportunity most of times… I’m never in this situation.

    By the way, at least Alaska card give you 3 miles on their own booking.

  4. I use a cobranded card when possible, I had been leaving several points on the table when staying at non chain hotels. I could never remember which card to use so I would pull out my United card and get 1.5 points. Most recently I stayed at a hotel in Makati which was not a chain I normally use and pulled out my Citi Thank you card. After reading this I realize I should have used my Ink card, will be at another non chain hotel in a week, that is the card I will use.

  5. @Lucky sez: “Everyone will value points differently, and those with different points valuations may also come up with different conclusions.”

    So, let’s see how good your own assumptions are! I will calculate ‘rebates’ for paying with each CC rather than their ‘return” on spend and see how you measure up.

    ‘Rebates’ based on EARN rates require no assumptions and, thus, allow apples vs. apples comparisons. By contrast, with average REDEMPTION values of points peddled by self-anointed travel gurus ranging, e.g., between 0.5-1.0cpp for BONVoY, one might as well be doing apples vs. grapes comparisons!!!

    Points currencies actually cost a lot more to earn than to redeem. How much more? Let’s compute purchasing costs, determine the ‘rebates’ due to CC spend, and then compare these to “returns” on spend..

    BONVoY Top Elite
    Each BONVoY point costs:
    Without CC: 1/(17.5pts/$) * 100cents/$ = 5.71cpp
    With: 1/(23.5pts/$) * 100cents/$ = 4.25cpp
    — ‘Rebate’ due to CC: 1.46cpp or 25%

    HH Diamond
    Each HH point costs:
    Without CC: 1/(20pts/$) * 100cents/$ = 5.00cpp
    With CC: 1/(34pts/$) * 100cents/$ = 2.94cpp
    — ‘Rebate’ due to CC: 2.06cpp or 40%

    A WoH Globalist
    Each WoH point costs:
    Without CC:1/(6.5pts/$) * 100cents/$ = 15.38cpp
    With 1/(10.5pts/$) * 100cents/$ = 9.52cpp
    — ‘Rebate’ due to CC: 5.86cpp or ~37%

    The good news for you, @Lucky, is that in spite of the subjectivity of your valuations, your relative ranking of the “returns” on spend for at least BONVoY, HH and WoH tracks quite closely, magnitude-wise, with my OBJECTIVE ranking based on ‘rebates’. 🙂

    Your “return” on the BONVoY Boundless CC is 4.2%; my ‘rebate’ for the same card is 25%. The conversion factor (CF) between the ‘return’ and ‘rebate’ is 25/4.2 = 5.95;

    Let’s divide all the rebates by the CF of 5.95 and see how they compare with @Lucky’s “returns” on the spend

    — BONVoY Boundless CC: 25%/5.95 = 4.2% vs @Lucky’s 4.2% (no surprise there as it is the basis for the CF)

    — WoH Chase Visa: 37%/6.17 = 6.2% vs. @Lucky’s 6.0%

    — Aspire Card: 40%/5.95 = 6.7% vs. @Lucky’s 7.0%

    Not bad… 🙂

  6. For WoH above, the result is correct but one number, the CF, I typed in is not. It should be 5.95 and not 6.17.

    — WoH Chase Visa: 37%/””5.95″” = 6.2% vs. @Lucky’s 6.0%

  7. Don’t forget that IHG usually has a quarterly promotion where you have to complete several tasks of which paying for a stay on your IHG credit card is one. So, be sure to pay for at least one IHG stay quarterly along with other tasks to unlock 10s of thousands of bonus points.

  8. Lucky’s updated evaluation of Hilton points from 0.4 to 0.5 cpp changes the computation for those of us who have an Amex Hilton Ascend card rather than the Aspire card, At 0.4 cpp the Ascend bonus of 12X spend has a return of 4.8%. However boosting the value to 0.5 cpp increases the return to 6% better than the 5.1% return on my Chase Reserve card.

    I’ll need to remember to use the Ascend card as my default card domestically.

  9. @Tprophet. What Hyatt “devaluation”? I find no problem exceeding Lucky’s 1.5% valuation when applying points instead of paying $ member rate in the majority of bookings I am looking at. His valuation seems a more than fair to me. What ‘devaluation’ are you referring to?

  10. As for Hyatt, I had a real success utilizing points for my last vacation. I was traveling in Florida during Spring Break so most hotels were ridiculously expensive. We ended up staying in Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and the Keys. Most stays were in excess of $300 a night with taxes and fees but had wide open points availability (reservations made before recent devaluation). All had breakfast in morning although I was getting sick of the Seattle’s Best Coffee…
    Hyatt House across from Universal Studios 8,000 $309.43 3.87
    Hyatt House across from Universal Studios 8,000 $309.43 3.87
    Hyatt House across from Universal Studios 8,000 $309.43 3.87
    Hyatt Place Fort Lauderdale – 17th Street 8,000 $284.74 3.75
    The Confidante Miami Beach 15,000 $534.66 3.56
    Hyatt Place Marathon/ Florida Keys 15,000 $381.54 2.54
    Hyatt Place Marathon/ Florida Keys 15,000 $381.54 2.54
    Hyatt Place Miami Airport-East 8,000 $162.33 2.03

    Spent a total of 85,000 points for $2,688.36 of hotel cost (with free breakfast) plus a points rebate of 11,500 due to the 1st quarter Hyatt promotion. So 73,500 points for $2,688.36 or roughly 3.66 cents per point. The ability to transfer from Chase UR points and the value I get is the primary reason I am giving up Bonvoy Platinum to become a Globalist.

  11. By the time I add in the value of premium card credits (Aspire & Brilliant) + free night stays (Ascend, WOH, Boundless) + extra card offers, I use co-brand cards over transferable currency cards at their respective properties.

  12. It’s intersesting how biased readers here are in favor of using hotel branded credit cards even though the numbers don’t stack up most of the time.
    .
    I guess it justifies the hotels offering these cards. The only one I have is a Hilton Amex card but it rarely makes any sense for me to use it even when staying at Hilton hotels.

    The only chain I really have any time for is Accor, and they don’t issue a credit card. Otherwise I’d rather pick my hotel based on the specific property and its location, rather than some anonymous cookie-cutter points hotel with no soul.

    Oh, and hotels.com gives you a 10% return on hotel room spend. That would appear to beat all the cards. I’d usually rather eat outside a hotel anyway as hotel meals and drinks are always over-priced, and don’tyou want to go out and explore?

    Points may be seductive but aren’t always sensible.

  13. @ Ben — IHG points are not worth .5 cpp. They are worth .35-.45 cpp, so I guess the proper average valuation is 0.4 cpp.

  14. Um yea, are Hilton points still worth $ .005? I thought everyone pegged them at like $ .0033 – $ .004?

  15. If you aren’t seeking status, what about the Capital One Venture and Hotels.com? 9% hotels.com rewards with 11th night free + 10 venture points worth at least 10%. So 19% rewards. Am I missing something?

  16. After the recent points inflation, I value Hilton points at 0.45 cents per point. I think Marriott should be valued at 0.8 cents per point. As my first post indicates I still disagree with Lucky here – I would rather spend on hotel cards when staying at those chains in order to maximize points earnings when staying at chains. I would rather not lose the opportunity to earn 12-14 Hilton points or 6 Bonvoy points when staying at those brands. I’d love to get the Hyatt card, but I need to wait a couple of years as I am way over 5/24…

  17. @Chad, if you are NOT going for status then you are 100% on track. As a 50/50 biz/leisure traveler I value status so I try to get every stay to count towards at least maintaining tier 1 status with the big four because it increases program points earned on every stay and for higher tier status includes upgrades and breakfast which can be great value.

  18. Comparing the % return on CC spend across programs as done here is better than directly comparing average redemption values in cents/point (e.g., BONVoY 0.7cpp vs. WoH 1.5cpp) because the latter do not account for the fact that different points currencies use different points “scales” (WoH standard awards cost only up to 30K or 40K vs. BONVoY’s 85K or 100K or HH’s 95K), as well as different base earn rates (including for in-hotel co-brand CC spend, which is compared here).

  19. Elephant in the room is the capital one venture with hotels.com. It gives 10% back flat out or 12% if u count cap one points at 1.2 cents. That’s on top of the 1 in 11 nites hotels.com gives for free (excluding taxes = 8.4% discount). Nothing else compared because:

    A. U have access to virtually all hotels.
    B. Often lower rates than hotel sites.
    C. The hotels.com gold status benefits, tho modest, apply to all rooms for friends and family.

    Not mentioning the capital one venture is ignoring the elephant in the room.

    I do 40 nites a year on this card and another 40 nites for friends and the flexibility is unbeatable.

  20. Lucky- correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t using the HHonors Aspire Amex at Hilton properties actually earn 34x points per $1 spent ? (14x on the card plus 20x for the diamond status the card grants its holder)

  21. Too bad nothing was mentioned about the Barclays Wyndham Card. It would have been useful to get some feedback !!

  22. Use Samsung pay in combination with hotels.com in the answer

    15% off 50$ gift cards theough samsung pay at the moment.
    5% cash back when using samsung pay portal to make reservations at hotels.com

    Add in the 10% value of hotels.com reward program, we are talking 30% back. Add in the points from purchasing the gift card it is closer to 33%

  23. I won’t use URs for booking Marriott rooms with Chase because I officially won’t earn status stay credits that way.

    I absolutely use the Brilliant/RC/Biz card for Marriott stays. I need lots of Marriott points for their premium properties, & transferring them from Chase or AMEX for stays is otherwise a bad deal.

  24. I have not had a hard time redeeming IHG and Bonvoy points for much higher than these valuations, and not just on luxury properties at peak periods. I just spent four free nights in a Crowne Plaza with redemption well above 1 cpp and will do so soon at a Westin for a five night stay. I have not come close to this at a Hilton property and have never managed to redeem UR points for more than the portal or Southwest transfer 1.5 cpp (I don’t buy premium cabin tix).
    My consistent experience with redemptions and the associated valuations totally changes the math and makes the cobranded cards the clear winner.
    This is true even for Hilton, where 3 UR is roughly = 12 HH points. I have the Surpass card which provides an uncapped [80K pts?] free night at 15K spend, which I value at ~5 pts/ dollar for 17pts/dollar total at Hilton properties. Even at their measly true value, the Hilton card points are better than all the transferable points cards.
    Note that I don’t stay at Hyatt because their footprint is not sufficient for my extensive travel/hotel needs.

  25. Lucky
    What you and many bloggers are missing is that a co-branded credit card for hotels is appropriate if you travel enough and pretty much only stay at a particular group’s hotels. It doesn’t make sense to hold the co-branded card for multiple groups because in other groups you won’t accumulate enough points to make much of a difference. In most loyalty programs just one transaction keeps it active. Therefore for those outside the hotel group you frequent most I would suggest the Reserve card.

  26. My job only books us at Marriott and I get to pay with my personal card. I have been using a Marriott card. I may have to rethink that now but I have been using my Marriott points pretty quickly.

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